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I joined the military because I had to—the Army paid for me to go to college. Because of that, I owed Uncle Sam 4 years of my life. I ended up serving for the next 3 decades, building a career in Special Operations and military intelligence.
I’ve hired many folks that I served with in Special Operations. I knew they’d be good business men and women.
Today, as a leader within the firm’s Joint Combatant Command business, one of my proudest accomplishments is my work on The Preservation of Force and Family contract, an initiative that helps Special Operations fighters and their families deal with the mental and physical tolls of military life and high-combat OPTEMPO.
Vice President James Gibbons is a leader in the firm’s defense market, aligned with the Joint Combatant Commands business. He focuses on the firm’s Special Operations Force Enterprise, primarily coordinating and synchronizing Special Operations engagements.
Jim has led numerous projects, including the Army Military Intelligence and the Central Command Joint Intelligence Operations Center accounts.
Jim joined Booz Allen in 2002 after spending 29 years as a career Army officer within the intelligence and special operations fields. During that time, he held key command and staff positions with many of our nation’s premier forces such as the 75th Ranger Regiment; 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – DELTA; J-2 – Joint Special Operations Command; Commander of a Special Operations Mission Brigade; C2 of the five-nation coalition to apprehend Persons Indicted for War Crimes; and Commander 1st Information Operations Command.
He holds a B.A. from LaSalle University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma.
What do you see as one of the biggest challenges facing your defense industry clients? My client has to remain agile and responsive, 24/7/365, to changes in mission, changes in the enemy, changes in operational tempo. That’s a big challenge to sustain, especially when our nation’s leaders reach to Special Operations to solve so many of the problems we’re experiencing overseas.
What military project are you most proud of? A piece of work that we won 4-plus years ago. It’s called Preservation of the Force and Family. It is a program that supports Special Forces operators—whether they’re Green Berets or Navy SEALs or Air Force Combat Controllers—in helping them recover from injury. These could be wounds sustained in combat or during training. We also have a psychological side. Their families cope with the stress of multiple deployments. There’s the stress of being a special operator in a wartime environment, the stress on the families during long-term deployments. We help prevent suicides, and we help prevent marriages from crumbling. They didn’t have that when I came into Special Operations in 1973, and I wish they had.
What was your very first job? I worked as a caddy at a golf course before I was legally authorized to in terms of age. I would go every Saturday and Sunday at 6 AM, carry two bags for 18 holes, get paid a small amount of money, then take two more bags for another 18 holes.
What makes you excited to get up in the morning? What makes me get up in the morning are people—my family – my faith and my close colleagues here at Booz Allen.
What are your three tips for managing and motivating people? Staff will follow somebody who they respect. So the first tip is hold yourself beyond reproach. Second, lead by example. People like leaders who will roll their sleeves up and get dirty. Third, be yourself. We live in such an era that we put all kinds of spin on who we are. People under and above you respect you more if you’re genuine, honest, and candid.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? There are two bones to get through life with—a backbone and a funny bone. Your team needs to see a leader who’s got a backbone and who can get dirty and laugh with them. And so do your leaders. A Native American told me that when I was 14 or 15 years old, while working in a farm field alongside him.
What would you say is your strongest character trait? This is a strength that sometimes gets me into trouble. I’m candid, but always sincere.
What were you like in high school? I went to a high school that had what I would call a Spartan and an Athenian blend; it focused on rigorous academics and rigorous sports. You had to play sports every season and remain academically strong. It was challenging, and I think it prepared me well to go to college and to be in the Army.
What is an old item you can’t get rid of? Pictures and mementos of my family and military past. It allows me to reflect on the people associated with that, and the hard times, and the successes and failures.
What is your favorite vacation or travel spot? My son and I, every year, go hunting in South Dakota in the middle of nowhere. We go with a bunch of my Special Operations friends and their sons. It is a sacred trip. Very little gets in the way of that trip.
What’s something not many people know about you? That I went to grade school with Bruce Springsteen. He went one way, and I went another way.
What has been your life’s biggest challenge? Trying to ensure I was a good father and husband to my wife and my son while I spent so much time dedicated to the military. I never achieved a perfect balance there. That’s not only my greatest challenge but my greatest regret.
What do you think people can do to be happier? Stop worrying about what everybody else thinks of you. That’s why I’m not on social media.